There was plenty of sunshine, smiles and Sheetz-donated sandwiches at Peaks View Park on Saturday, Oct. 30 to kick off the first annual disc golf tournament. The event was sponsored by Sheetz, Apple Auto Glass, Stand Up Inc. and Peaks and Creeks Disc Golf Club as a fundraiser for the upcoming Polar Plunge.
Although the fundraiser was primarily geared toward raising money for the Polar Plunge, South Central Virginia’s director of Special Olympics Josh Walker emphasized the event’s focus to cultivate mutual respect between attendees and the special Olympic athletes.
“Athletics is the vehicle, but we are all about spreading the idea of respect and unity,” Walker said.
Twenty disc golfers turned out and made friends with several Special Olympics athletes who stopped by the tournament after their volleyball practice for a lunch break.
Walker considered the event a success.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done it, but it was fun and we’re going to keep it going,” he said.
The Special Olympics athletes meet year-round for sporting events each Saturday. Next week the team will travel to Virginia Beach for states in volleyball where they hope to finish this season undefeated, and then they will shoot into their basketball season.
Leroy Makens remembers last year’s perfect volleyball season and is trying to repeat it so he can hang his 16th gold medal on his wall. He also is looking forward to the Country Western style dance on Saturday night, which may prove even more fun than the volleyball game.
Central Virginia Community College student Keshia Burks, who hopes to one day have her own counseling business where she can help mentally handicapped people, takes a less competitive approach.
“Even if we don’t win, it will still be okay as long as we try,” she said.
Burks enjoys playing volleyball and basketball and says she has made friends with the whole team.
Jarrett Speaw, a former student at Liberty and a former volunteer for the Special Olympics in Virginia turned out to support the cause as a disc golfer.
“I figured I better go and help out, I play here at least once a week so I probably would have been here anyway,” he said.
Many of the other participants were Liberty students who found out about the event through posters in the hallways, professors and word of mouth.
Walker is pleased with the support Liberty students give to the Special Olympics. There are at least 10 student volunteers from Liberty helping the organization this year.
Representatives from Liberty’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) also showed up to promote awareness of the “Spread the Word to End the Word campaign.” The campaign is aimed at cultivating mutual respect by ending the use of the “R” word and getting people to sign a pledge to stop using it.
“Liberty keeps setting the standard,” Walker said. “It is awesome.”
Although colleges like Radford University are now catching on, Liberty was the first university in Virginia to host a polar plunge. Last year’s plunge saw a jump from 15 to 50 participants.
The Polar plunge will be held Feb. 26 at Camp Hydaway and include a costume competition, food, a battle of the bands and more.
“It’s a whole day of fun and music, a whole festival,” Walker said.